University Of Tasmania

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Developing organisational capabilities to support agility in humanitarian logistics: An exploratory study

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 19:41 authored by L'Hermitte, C, Tatham, P, Marcus Bowles, Benjamin BrooksBenjamin Brooks

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore the underlying strategic mechanisms of agility in a humanitarian logistics context. Based on the research conducted in business disciplines, the paper empirically examines a set of four strategic dimensions (being purposeful, being action-focused, being collaborative, and being learning-oriented) and identifies an emergent relationship between these capabilities and agile humanitarian logistics operations.

Design/methodology/approach: Leadership and management actions perceived to support the four capabilities were identified and used as a basis to complete the exploratory research. Specifically, a case study with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) was undertaken and, in this context, a qualitative analysis of 29 face-to-face interviews with humanitarian logistics experts working for WFP was conducted.

Findings: The research corroborates the relevance of the four strategic-level capabilities to the humanitarian logistics context and confirms that these capabilities play a role in the development of agility in humanitarian operations. The work also identifies a set of key strategic decision-making areas that relate to the building of agility.

Research limitations/implications: Additional research is needed to further investigate and measure the strategic-level capabilities and to quantify their impact on operational agility. Further research should also be undertaken to extend this study to a wider range of humanitarian organisations.

Originality/value: This paper is the first empirical research that takes a strategic approach to the concept of agility in humanitarian logistics. It highlights that the leaders and managers of humanitarian organisations have a significant role to play in the building of an agile system.


Publication title

Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management




72 - 99




Australian Maritime College


Emerald Publishing Limited

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

© Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Domestic passenger water transport (e.g. ferries)